May 25, 2011
On May 17, Ohio University President Roderick J. McDavis announced Bryan Benchoff as the new vice president for university advancement. On Monday, Benchoff, who will officially start in his position on July 15, came to the Athens campus to meet with the Advancement staff as well as members of the leadership team. He made time to sit down with Ohio University Compass and talk about the University, his vision and what he likes about advancement.
Compass: What first attracted you to Ohio University?
Benchoff: When I first heard about the position, it piqued my interest, but I was busy in my current role [as president and CEO of the University of South Dakota Foundation] and was not planning on a career move. It got my attention, and I had trouble dismissing it when the search firm shared with me the nature of the position. And, it really caused me to pause and take a step back and think about what I want in a my career. What kind of institution I could really see myself with for the long haul? And, I realized that Ohio University is that kind of place. I was born and raised in Pennsylvania, spent 17 years in West Virginia, and my perception of this institution has always been highly positive. This is a sizable institution with a great academic reputation, a wide breadth of programs. Athens is a wonderful town which also influenced my thinking. I grew up in a small town, and this is the type of setting I'd like to see myself in.
Why do you like to work in advancement?
The simple answer is that I like to work with folks like alumni, donors and other friends of an institution to make things happen; to make important things happen. I like to help them shape their gift so that it has the impact that they would like. And, advancement is becoming ever more important in the life of public institutions. I've been doing this for a long time and I have seen private giving and what it can do to enhance that margin of excellence at an institution.
What is your favorite part of fundraising?
The people, in no uncertain terms. I like the visits, to hear their stories and connections to the university. I like to help them shape what they might like to do; what kind of investment they would like to make in the future of their university. That's fun for me.
What is your vision for advancement at Ohio University?
I'll speak to that in short and long term. Short term, we're in the middle of a campaign, and it's going quite well. We need to push that to success and hopefully considerably beyond. And, along the way, my vision would be to continue to build upon an already strong advancement team to enable our fundraising successes to carry over well after the completion of the campaign. To build the team and the structure, and to reach out to more and more people than we have in the past and to get them engaged so we're ready for the next campaign.
In my open forum I said that affinity always precedes philanthropy. And, with the Alumni Association doing excellent work, we need to find a way to capitalize on that. How will we turn those relationships and that synergy into philanthropy?
What is your plan for building your staff? What positions will be your first to fill?
Well, obviously with the departure of the assistant vice presidents, there are significant positions that need to be filled quickly. They have tremendous institutional memories; two of the three have really been with the University for the long haul. I have to get that addressed quickly. There are other vacancies as well. It will take me a bit of time to sit down and examine the open positions and determine what organizationally is needed. In the interim, I know that some positions have recently been filled and other searches are well underway
President McDavis has been serving as interim Vice President for University Advancement. Has he offered you any advice?
We've had several highly positive and productive talks, and he has offered me sound advice on numerous topics. I was very impressed with what he has accomplished in his interim role. He is truly a fundraising president. He wants to push the campaign as far and as fast as we can. A big part of his vision, for when the campaign is over, is that we will have built a formidable fundraising program, and team that is capable of sustaining Ohio University’s need for private support that well into the future. I share his vision and we have already started to shape our goals and plans in that regard.